July 25, 2021

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Isoko Kingdom: A Bayelsa Community Always Remembered During Elections, Forgotten Thereafter

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Before the creation of Bayelsa state, the old Rivers state was a multi-ethnic state, made up of ethnic groups including Ikwere, Ogoni, Andoni, Ogba, Kalabari, Okirika, Ijaw, Ogbia, Epie-Atissa, Nembe and Isoko. These respective ethnic groups, no matter how minute each one may be, were respected and accorded their constitutional rights. None of these groups were discriminated against because of the language they speak or their number. For example, Chief Melford Okilo, of blessed memory, a son of Ogbia, one of the smallest ethnic group, was made governor. The same was said of Alfred Diete-Spiff, a son of Brass, who became military administrator of the multi-ethnic state.
Fortunately enough, a former military head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha, through military fiat,
announced the creation of Bayelsa state on October 1st, 1996. When the map of Bayelsa was made available, the Isoko autonomous communities were part of the new state. These Isoko speaking communities in Bayelsa state with origin from the ancient Benin Kingdom, like the Epie-Atissa, had settled a donkey years on that geographical location which now forms part of Bayelsa state.
The Isoko speaking Bayelsans are flanked by Asamabiri community on the northern side and Agbere community on the west at the mouth of the River Nun in Sagbama local government area of the state. They also share common boundaries with Biseni communities of Yenagoa local government area on the eastern wing. The Isoko speaking autonomous communities in Bayelsa state are Osekwenike, Osifo, Abuetor, Kanan and Ogbokiri-Ama. They form ward 14, with a population of about 10,000 people and they had always given their bloc votes to the ruling party in the state.
It is worthy to note unequivocally, that these Isoko speaking communities are major contributors to the economic development of Bayelsa state and Nigeria by extension. They play host to the Biseni-Samabiri cluster location, an Agip oil and gas flow station where thousands of barrels of crude oil are being flowed out on daily basis.
Despite their immense contributions to the production of internally generated revenue and political assistance to the government of the day, the communities have been subjected to perpetual servitude and treated as though they were third class citizens in their own state. To assert that there is no singular presence of government in terms of social amenities in any of the said communities is just to state the obvious. Since the creation of Bayelsa State, successive governments cannot point to any projects sited in any of the communities. Under the present government, nothing has changed.
The only few developmental projects found in the communities are the ones executed by the International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating on their lands in line with the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) reached between the communities and the multinational companies.
Indigenes of the Isoko speaking areas in the state are often left perplexed as to what could be responsible for their woes. They are pondering, but are unable to fathom what their offences could be that successive governments and the Governor Seriake Dickson led present restoration administration have left them to their own fate.
In the history of the creation of Bayelsa State, the only period when the state government remembers the existence of the indigenous Isokos in the state is during electioneering seasons. The seeming discrimination against them vanishes automatically when the time comes for the ruling PDP to seek their votes during campaigns. Painfully, these helpless Isokos are being used as recruitment ground for the PDP to win elections and get abandoned thereafter.
Some sons of the Okugbe-Isoko Kingdom who spoke to TNN on their experiences described their neglect by the state as an act of undeserved wickedness on the side of government. A one- time Community Development Committee (CDC) chairman of Abuetor community, Mr. Christopher Okei said “we have been pondering over this problem of our abandonment by the state government over the years. If you go round all our communities, you can’t find any project executed by government.
“Sometimes, we even wonder whether we are being considered as part of Bayelsa state. They forget that the way we find ourselves here in Bayelsa by the reason of state creation is the same way Ijaw communities are spread across states of the Niger Delta and they are not discriminated against. I don’t know why our case is different. The only time they remember that we exist is when they need our votes to win elections. After that, we don’t know if government exists.
“As l speak to you, we don’t have common community health centre. The missionary primary schools built before we were born got dilapidated and our children began to learn under trees before God used the oil companies operating on our land to build primary schools for us. Shortage of teachers had been our lots. Political appointment is a no-go area. Yet, we have very suittably qualified sons and daughters that can be appointed into political offices.
“If not for Agip and other oil companies that are working on our land, I don’t know what would have become of us in terms of social amenities. Despite the billions of naira invested in education by the present administration, not even renovation of schools project was considered for any of our communities. We had no potable water until Agip and her sister companies gave us water.
Also speaking, President -General of Osekwenike community, Mr. Anthony Okorie decried government’s total absence in an area which is greatly contributing to the economic growth of the state. He called on the state government to turn a new leaf and remember the Isoko speaking communities like other autonomous communities in Bayelsa state.

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